Trekking in Idaho's Sawtooths

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 11-18, 1996
Trekking in Idaho's Sawtooths
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Trekking in Idaho's Sawtooths
Question: Can you recommend a good overnight backpack route and destination in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains?

Steven Botkin
Pacifica, CA
[email protected]

Idaho's Sawtooths overlook
a lush green valley

Adventure Adviser: Well, Steve (may I call you Steve?), it's hard to talk about the Sawtooths without raving about the almost-ideal Toxaway Lake Loop. I say "almost-ideal" since, along with the perfectly spaced chain of clear blue alpine lakes comes crowds of wilderness-seeking hikers.

How to have your cake and eat it too? Plan the 18-mile round-trip hike for mid-week, when most--but not all--of the hikers will be doing their working-Joe stints in some poorly lit office somewhere. Pick up the trail at Tin Cup Camp, off Idaho 73 and Petit Lake Road about three hours from Boise, and hike six miles to Alice Lake.

Camp there if you've gotten off to a late start, or schlep another three miles to the midway payoff: mile-long Toxaway Lake, surrounded by jutting granite peaks. The trail never drops below 7,000 feet, which means you'll have to limit your trip to July or August, when most of the snow has melted and the wildflowers are out in force. Don't leave home without your fly rod and fishing license (available from local outfitters), since each of the half-dozen lakes along the route are teeming with hefty brookies.

For maps and trail info, call the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Visitor Center at 208-727-5013; they're in the process of updating permit requirements, so you'll want to call ahead for more details. And, before you go, check out our trail description in "America the Hoofable" in the Destinations section of our April 1996 issue.

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